Updated: Feb 1, 2022
Satya, truthfulness, is the second of the five Yamas (restraints) described in the Yoga Sutra, these sutras can encourage us to live mindfully, honestly and true.
The word sat can be translated many ways, 'That which exists, that which is', "True essence' or 'True nature'. Satya, therefore, is seeing and communicating things as they actually are, not as we wish them to be. Within our daily lives this can be quite challenging since we all perceive life through opinions, influences and in many ways a conditioned mind-set: our thoughts, beliefs, and past experiences shape and colour whatever we see, and, as such, none of us experience an event in the same way. Also, what we experience as truth one day may not be the same truth we live the next. Practicing Satya requires us to stay open to truth in the present moment, as it reveals and unfolds itself in its own beautiful way.
Staying open from day to day can feel quite intimating, sometimes we want to just crawl in a hole and be swallowed, some days we want to shout and howl wildly from the mountain tops. Yoga teaches us to be open in the sense of true awareness, to everything that is, the good, the bad, the right, the wrong, the ups and downs of life. The interweaving of sensations and emotions that can change every minute. Satya means, 'unchangable' a little contradictory to what I have just said I know! We are in constant change but that WHOLEness, that simplicity of noticing everything that is, our bodies intelligence, our thoughts, our experiences in life, and how we express ourselves are truth. With busy lives, distractions, social media, outer influences we can easily wander from our path of truth.
So how do we connect back to our true selves? Here we find the art of listening, with our ears and our hearts.
When we come to our yoga mats to practice, we need to be honest with ourselves. Is your practice serving you? What is the purpose of my practice, am I practicing to explore myself physically and emotionally or am I practicing in order to perfect a difficult yoga posture to post on instagram, am I pushing my body too hard? Asking such questions and allowing honest answers to surface will help you to move beyond this physical shell, dissolve the ego and limited identity, and help you blossom into your true potentials.
Our yoga practice is here to serve our bodies and minds, not harm our joints and ligaments – so each time we get on the mat it’s important to have complete honesty with what we actually need in that very moment. On a physical and emotional level, we change all the time, so fixating upon one way of practising isn’t always going to work out. When we can get the ego-mind out of the way (you know, the one that tells us we should be able to do headstand, or we should be able to meditate without getting distracted….) this offers us a way to see past our conditioned, ever-changing and un-true ways of thinking, and uncover a more pure and beneficial way of practising and treating ourselves on all levels.
So next time you're about to practice...
Pay closer attention to the breath, The breath is such an important factor in asana (posture) practice, but one of the most important aspects is that it tells us when to back off…. If the breath is strained or shallow, it’s likely that the body isn’t happy with what it’s being asked to do – so even though it might hurt our ego a little bit, honesty requires listening to the breath in every moment and working with it.
Take your time, to feel each movement your body creates, even if this means taking a longer rest in class, pressing pause on the youtube video you're following along to, heck, turning it off completely to get into your own flow. Notice the breath, then notice how you move, and cultivate that acceptance, to notice those areas that feel uncomfortable, and are you avoiding them? Maybe today, stay within them and feel each layer, maybe your next practice they will feel different. Learning how to feel, learning how to accept makes your practice so much more beautiful. You no longer need to be hard on yourself because you can't do something, you show up where you are and you love that place. Every time you practice, please remember, you're never taking a backwards step.
Life is about being true to your own self, reflecting on your actions from that space. Do you feel at home wherever you go? When we are natural with others, we start feeling at home no matter whether we are in the company of complete strangers or with our best buddies. Many times, we cover ourselves up with mannerism, formalities, and societal conditioning in order to be accepted and loved. We should remember that our true selves are our best selves, and that it is alright to be our real ‘self’. This includes talking about things that really matter, or you really believe in, instead of engaging in meaningless chit-chat or gossip just to pass the time or break the silence. When people sense that you are sincere in your words and actions, they will start to trust and respect you. By being your authentic you, you allow and inspire others to live the same way too.
Complete honesty with ourselves requires us to create a little bit of space, stillness or at least some slowing-down of the mind. When we react instantly to situations on a purely primitive and emotional level, we’re often not seeing the truth and are acting from a place of fear and conditioning.
Day by day, notice how you feel, see if you can take a little time to be more mindful of your actions, something as simple as silent breakfast (Difficult?!) It sounds silly but its beautiful, find somewhere to sit, with your breakfast (or lunch) and eat in silence, regardless of everything going on around you. Taste your food, TRULY, every bite, every sip of water. The closer you can pay attention to the smallest things your life will unfold in the most amazing way.
To be with what is, to be truthful in one's life, to one's heart, one's presence, one's mind, this is following Satya. The clarity and purity in your intention, straight forwardness in your approach, is Satya. Your intention, is it truthful? Is your intention straight forward, is your intention clear? Or is there something else behind that? Is there some other hook you are keeping there?' That indicates the truth. Truth is not just what we speak, but what we are, our state of being - integrity in our words, deeds and most importantly in our intentions. It is about being genuine and authentic. When we have such integrity, we become the embodiment of Satya. Our being reflects it.